Enrichment for Life

By Jeff Taratoot | jefft@acahomecare.com

The worry of not getting enough sleep at night is keeping me awake.

We’ve all been there. That 6:30 a.m. flight for an important business meeting, or the early carpool to school, or worrying whether your son will pass his chemistry test. The mind is just racing, keeping you from falling asleep.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says adults should sleep between seven and nine hours a night. The same report states that 35 percent of adults get less than seven hours.

Excessive sleep loss can lead to weight gain, higher blood pressure, anxiety, depression and even diabetes, according to a recent study from the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine.

Sleep deprivation was a factor in some of the biggest disasters in recent history, including the nuclear accident at Three Mile Island in 1979, the nuclear meltdown at Chernobyl in 1986 and the massive Exxon Valdez oil spill in 1989. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration estimates that fatigue is a cause in 100,000 U.S. auto crashes a year.

Studies also show that sleep loss leads to accidents and injuries on the job and produces more sick days per accident.

Many doctors report that sleep issues are most chronic with the senior population. In a National Institute on Aging study of over 9,000 people 65 and older, over half reported sleep complaints, including difficulty falling asleep, difficulty maintaining sleep and excessive daytime sleepiness.

We can do many things to try to get a better night’s sleep:

  • Cut out the drinks that contain caffeine, such as coffee, tea and soft drinks, by midafternoon.
  • Skip that late-night martini. Alcohol may help you doze off initially, but once it wears off, you’re likely to wake up and have a hard time getting back to sleep, according to the Mayo Clinic.
  • Do not eat a heavy meal before bed, such as beef, which takes excess energy to digest and causes indigestion for many.
  • Turn off the electronics, especially the smartphones and tablets. These stimulate our brains, and it is difficult to shut down immediately after reading email or answering a text.
  • Exercise more. Any form of movement (running, swimming, those early classes at the Marcus Jewish Community Center) helps you feel refreshed and sleep better at night. Plus, exercise is vital to lowering blood pressure; high blood pressure causes heart attacks and respiratory diseases.

Yale University recently released research findings regarding high school kids. When asked how they feel during the school day, the students consistently invoked two key feelings: “tired” and “stressed.”

The head researcher, Marc Brackett of the psychology department at Yale, said, “Parents and educators should be alarmed by the finding, as we need to be attending to the feelings of the nation’s youth.”

Many parts of the country are starting school at a later hour because they were tired of having students who were falling asleep first thing in the morning. Many of these schools have shown an increase in national standardized testing and have happier students who participate more in class as well as in extracurricular activities.

Getting the recommended amount of sleep will help create happy people, as well as a healthier society. So don’t let that unanswered email or conference call or your child’s upcoming championship soccer game keep you up.

Let your brain relax. Take a break. You will thank yourself the next day.

 

Jeffrey Taratoot is the owner of A Caring Approach Home Care.